☕ Book Break ☕ | To Best the Boys by Mary Weber

To Best the Boys by Mary Weber

This light fantasy YA novel was a quick read for me. It caught my interest from the first line and kept it throughout the entire story. If I were to pick one book for a teen girl or a preteen girl who is a reluctant reader, this one might be it. The characters are, in my opinion, completely relatable to girls today. It felt a little less intense than Hunger Games or Maze Runner, but had similar elements. Positive messages about following your dreams and fighting for women’s rights to an education. Squeaky clean. 

It wasn’t what I was expecting from either the title or the cover. The main character enters a competition with boys, but there’s an equal focus on her home life and a dash of romance, which rounded the story out nicely for me. I was surprised at how much I liked this book. My feed was flooded with this book several months before it came out, but every time I checked to see if it was available it wasn’t out yet, so it got bumped to the bottom of my list. I’m glad I finally got to it. Recommended for all readers and reluctant readers. 

Positive Message

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

Positive Female Role Model

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

Entertaining 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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☕ Book Break ☕ |The Boy In The Black Suit by Jason Reynolds #popsugarreadingchallenge

#popsugarreadingchallenge

A Book With Clothing on The Cover

The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

Sixteen year old Matt wears a black suit every day, not because his mother dies, but for his job at the funeral home. That and his habit of sitting in on services. He’s looking for a way to deal with his grief, and encounters a girl who might just know the answer. He sure won’t find help from his dad, who seems to be trying to drown his sorrow in a bottle.

My heart broke a little bit with every page. 

The voice and sense of place drew me into his world. I would not hesitate to recommend this for anyone from pre-teens to adults. 

A true page turner. Happy-sad. A bit of romance. Realistic, coming of age.  A perfect book for teens about coming to terms with grief of any sort.

Go get it. Recommended for all.

Characters

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

All the Feels

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Relatable

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Storyline

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Engaging

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Well Written

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Gritty Contemporary Christian YA: Interview with Author Brian McBride

 

Haunted by the last question their mother ever asked them, the Greyson brothers struggle to cope with their grief and adjust to life after tragedy.

Semi-popular sixteen-year-old Liam spends his nights performing as the lead singer of his high school indie alternative/rock band, Liam and the Landmarks. But something happened to Liam four years ago at his friend’s house – a secret Liam will take to his grave. But in small towns like Summit, Colorado, secrets always seem to find their way out.

Twenty-four-year-old Ezra thought that he could cure his grief when he left Summit behind for a prestigious art school in Chicago, but things only got worse. Now a college dropout working at a gas station mini mart, he turns to alcohol, prescription painkillers, and meaningless one-night stands. But Ezra can’t run forever – life always catches up with you.

With abrasively honest dual-perspective narratives, Every Bright and Broken Thing illustrates the unbreakable bond between brothers and the power in coming home.

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Bookstagrammer, blogger, and author Sunny Huck shared about Brian’s work on her Instagram and peaked my interest so I had to talk with him.

DJS: Your novels are contemporary and gritty. What drives you to write about the issues you do?

BM: Some of it is personal experience; a lot of the issues I write about are things that myself or others I know have faced. Depression, self-harm, mental illness, sexual abuse and assault, domestic violence, addiction, etc… 

But some of it is also that there’s a severe lack in the YA market – specifically the Christian YA market – of stories that deal with these things. I can’t name even five Christian YA Contemporary novels that could be comparable to, say, the stories John Green, Amber Smith, or Stephen Chbosky write. The Christian Fiction industry seems to think YA Fantasy novels are the only kind worth publishing. I disagree. I doubt I can fill this gap completely by myself, but maybe I can encourage other Christian authors of YA Contemporary to share their stories, too – THEN we’ll fill the gap!

DJS: What has been the most gratifying about writing realistic Christian fiction for young people?

BM: Hearing the stories of how my books have given people a new view of themselves, of the value of life, of faith and hope, and most importantly of Jesus. Hearing all those stories has been the highlight of this experience. 

DJS: Liam and Ezra go through some pretty harrowing times before they begin their healing journey in Every Bright and Broken Thing. Will you write any more of their story?

I don’t have any new stories simmering for Liam and Ezra right now. But I have a short story or novella I may or may not be planning to carry on Lincoln’s story. But anything is possible. If a good idea comes, I won’t say no to revisiting my boys in Summit. 

DJS: Every Bright and Broken Thing is the story of two brothers dealing with loss and how they react. In a few sentences, what would you say to those who want to support families going through grief?

BM: Hold onto them and don’t let go. I remember a time when I was far away from the Lord and was getting into some bad stuff, but my parents refused to let go. Some parents will kind of back off and say, “oh, well they’re adults now. They have to make their own choices.” But my parents weren’t about to let me go. They held on for months and months. I literally would not be alive today if it weren’t for the fierce, fighting kind of love my parents have for me.

In Every Bright, we see Mr. Greyson grapple with his own suffering and even come to realize how he allowed his grief to cause him to not hold onto his sons like he should. Mr. Greyson had to determine once again that he was going to hold onto his boys. In that, we see a father who was broken become strong again.

So, if you know someone who is suffering, hold on and don’t let go. Sometimes that means telling them the hard truth. Sometimes that just means listening and letting them cry on your shoulder. Whatever the case, hold on and don’t let go.

Thank you so much for taking time to talk with us today, Brian. Keep writing. I expect great things to come from your work.

A winner of the 2016 Wattys Award, Brian published the award-winning Young Adult Contemporary debut, Love and the Sea and Everything in Between, in 2018.
Born and raised in Oregon, Brian moved to the San Francisco Bay Area at 16-years-old. He’s been writing since he was thirteen-years-old and has been reading for longer. Brian is pursuing a degree in Social Work, which he hopes to use to help rescue children and families. Perhaps he’ll work to better the US’s foster care system? Or maybe he’ll join an organization that fights human trafficking? A fourth generation pastor, he is deeply passionate about the Church and is also pursuing his Minister’s License. It was this passion that compelled him to launch the Pioneer Mvmt, a social-media-based faith movement. Among other things, he is also passionate about iced tea, animals, adoption, and the arts.

☕ Book Break ☕ | Cinder by Marissa Meyer #popsugarreadingchallenge

#popsugarreadingchallenge2019

A book you meant to read last year

That would be a looong list, but I’ll pick one.

Cinder is a book that’s been on my list forever. 

This is an  imaginative retelling of Cinderella with a futuristic setting in New Beijing. Cinder is a hated stepchild and is also a cyborg. Being cyborg is not a popular thing to be, so she doesn’t advertise the fact that she’s a social outcast. There’s a prince, a ball, and an evil queen. A deadly disease strikes Cinder’s stepsister, and Cinder would do anything to save her. There;s a mystery surrounding Cinder’s past, she can’t remember anything from her early childhood. 

Fast paced and easy to read.  Recommended for ages 13 and up.

Interview with Hope Bolinger ~YA Author and Literary Agent

This week I was super excited to talk with literary agent and author Hope Bolinger about her recent release, Blaze. 

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From the Back Cover of Blaze

If you can’t stand the heat, don’t walk into the fire.

Danny knew his sophomore year would be stressful . . . but he didn’t expect his school to burn down on the first day. 

To make matters worse (and they were about to get a lot worse), he — and his three best friends — receive an email in their inboxes from the principal of their rival, King’s Academy, offering full-rides to attend the town’s prestigious boarding school. Danny wants nothing to do with King’s Academy and says no. Of course his mother says yes. So off he goes to be bullied and picked on for not being part of the popular and rich “in crowd.” 

From day one at King’s, Danny encounters hazing, mocking insults from girls at the “popular and pretty” table, and cafeteria food that, for such a prestigious school, tastes as if it were purchased from a military surplus supply warehouse. If he survives, Danny will have to overcome his fears of failure, rejection, and loneliness—all while standing strong in his beliefs and walking into the fire.

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DJS: As I read your book, I often found myself chuckling at Danny’s wit. Was it difficult to write humor or did it come naturally? What experiences did you draw on to write humor into your story?

HB: I love humor. I actually started writing as a comedic playwright. If you know me at all, I crack jokes all the time, which does draw many eyerolls from my younger brother as is the tendency of most younger brothers. I think you just have to have a sense of humor to make it through this industry. Certain rejections are simply funny. It’s like publishers are just desperate to come up with a reason not to take on your book. I literally had a publisher say, “There’s nothing wrong with this book. It’s perfect. But we’re not going to publish it.” A lot of awful stuff happened right before I wrote Blaze, and I had two options: to wallow or to poke fun at the ridiculousness of it all. I think all those humorous situations just pent up and turned into Danny.

DJS: Blaze is set in a boarding school, King’s Academy.  What was it about the boarding school culture that drew you to write a story in this setting? 

HB: I wanted to create a modern-day Babylon, and in the original story of Daniel, they basically live in the King’s palace for their education. It just felt like a boarding school. I also wrote it in college, which is basically a boarding school for adults. I think I just had to release some frustrations about the lack of AC in our forty-five year old dorm when the campus kept building such nice things for all the visitors.

DJS: As a writer, it’s easy to become attached to our characters. Can you tell us about one of your characters who tugs on your heartstrings? If you could meet them face to face and tell them one thing, what would it be? 

HB: I love all four of the characters in Blaze. Rayah really tugs hard on my heartstrings because she went through something somewhat similar to me. Throughout the series, we witness the falling out of her parents and how the divorce affects her. Because she’s so shy and timid, she doesn’t often let on how much it affects her. If I could meet her, I’d tell her she’s far stronger, smarter, and more beautiful than she thinks.

DJS: Friendship is a theme in your novel. What advice about friendship do you have for your young readers?

HB: Friendship is so important. Keep your friends as close as possible, and be there for them during the tough times. Friends can help you through the most difficult times of life. If I didn’t have a body of wonderful friends surrounding me during my parents’ divorce, I don’t know what I would’ve done.

DJS: Great advice, Hope. We all need friends to lean on in tough times.

I enjoyed reading Blaze. Thank you so much for spending time with us. Wishing you the best of luck with your novel!

Guys, next month be sure to pop over to Almost an Author for more of my interview with Hope Bolinger when we talk about writing.

Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a recent graduate of Taylor University’s professional writing program. More than 350 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer’s Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column “Hope’s Hacks,” tips and tricks to avoid writer’s block, reaches 6,000+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young’s blog. Her modern-day Daniel, Blaze,” (Illuminate YA) just released, and they contracted the sequel for 2020. Find out more about her here.

Facebook: @therosewoman Twitter: @hopebolinger

Instagram: @hopebolinger  Website: hopebolinger.com

 

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☕ Book Break ☕ | ~Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu~

~Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu~

Moxie Girls Fight Back is the motto of these high schoolers who are fed up with being groped, talked down to, marginalized, and assaulted while those in authority turn a blind eye.

There’s a contrast between Viv’s reality and her grandparents, and that showing quite well without disrespecting either generation. The same sensitivity is shown when talking about people with different political backgrounds and belief systems.

As I was reading this I relived incidents from my own junior high and high school days. I think this book is a call to action. It’s not enough to just make it through until you graduate because the problem is never going to go away. It is a pervasive attitude that is passed down and tolerated unless boys are taught better.  

This book is set in a realistic high school environment where there is language, assault, and stuff that kids encounter. I would hope that most administrations would not be as blatantly anti-female as the one depicted in this book, but it reads as if it could be true. This is a book with feminist characters, and a simplified definition of feminism.

There is a bit tossed in hinting about two girls in a relationship. This encompassed all of a few sentences and felt a little odd, but I can see it playing out in real life that way.

This is a book about empowering girls to insist on an education and the right to walk the halls without being groped or worse. It’s a book about girls demanding accountability from authority. It’s fresh and thought provoking.

Well written and relevant. LOVED Viv and the portrayal of her family. Splash of romance. Besides being a compelling and well told story, this is a thoughtful book that could be used as a starting point for good discussions.

I definitely see the need for this type of book. This issue is not going to go away and I think novels can open our eyes and help us understand the world better.

☕ Book Break ☕ |~Protected by Claire Zorn~

~Protected by Claire Zorn~

“Books are especially useful if you have no one to talk to; they give the illusion that you choose not to talk to anyone, as opposed to the fact you simply have no friends.”

Protected is a novel about grief, bullying, and coming to terms with tragedy. Hannah has lost her older sister Katie in a car crash. The same crash has left her father with injuries that cause him daily pain and make it difficult for him to walk.

The story is told in scenes out of sequence, hopping back-and-forth in time. I honestly don’t know how she managed to write the story this way and keep the clarity of the storyline. I never got confused. I listened to this on my Kindle with no line breaks or anything to tell when the time shifted and had no problem keeping oriented.

There’s a mystery surrounding what exactly happened. Hannah knows, but she’s not telling. Her dad doesn’t remember. Listening to this book made me anxious to find out.

The death of Hannah’s sister has caused a complete reversal in many areas of Hannah’s life. Previously, she was bullied horribly at school.

Much in this book is disturbing. The bullying was extreme. The complicated family dynamic made my heart ache for Hannah. Her sister, Katie, isn’t a very likable character and I wanted to quit this book more than once because of it, and yet I kept reading.There’s quite a bit of language and it does deal with serious topics. It does end with a satisfying resolution.

If my teen read this book I would want to read it along with them and talk about the issues that come up.

 

2015

Children’s Book Council of Australia Award Nominee for Older Readers

Prime Minister’s Literary Awards for Young Adult Fiction

Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction

The Inky Awards Nominee for Gold Inky